Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 08, 2014

Yemen: Did U.S. Surveil Hostage Negotiators To Hit Hostage Takers?

More questions arise about the recless U.S. rescue attempt in Yemen that killed a nearly free hostage as well as at least nine others.

The U.S. claimed it was trying to free Luke Somer because AlQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a mixture of tribal Yemeni and Jihadis, threatened to kill him.

But the anonymous U.S. officials and the media neglect to explain that AQAP had so far never killed a foreign hostage. It made a threat to kill Luke Somer only after an earlier botched U.S. raid on November 25. That raid ironically freed seven AlQaeda fighters held by their own group under suspicion of being spies. The parents of Luke Somer do not believe that AQAP would have carried through with its threat to kill Somer:

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAB) posted a video online on Thursday, threatening to kill the American citizen within three days but his stepmother Penny Bearman and half-sister Lucy Somers indicated they still had hope because previous threats had not been carried out.

Bearman, 55, of Deal, Kent, told the Times they were “quite angry because if there had not been a rescue attempt he would still be alive”.

“We are sure Luke would have given support to the ongoing discussions [to secure his release] in Yemen rather than the conflict approach. There had been threats before that had not been carried out,” she said.

A second foreign hostage, Pierre Korkie, was killed in the recent rescue attempt. Eight Yemeni civilians were also killed. Korkie was supposed to be freed the very same day due to a ransom payment. There have long been negotiations between the hostage takers and the charity Gift of the Givers that employed Korkie. The U.S. now claims it was unaware of negotiations for his imminent release. That does not sound plausible to me. The NSA is certainly listening to every call in Yemen that might be of interest.

Iona Craig, a journalist in Yemen who knew Korkie, does not believe this either:

"US didn't know about talks on freeing S.African killed in Yemen raid" - Blatant lie. Most widely publicised talks in history of kidnapping

There is another data point that makes me believe that the U.S. not only did know about the negotiations and that Korkie was about to be freed but that it used this information to carry out the raid itself.

A NYT report describes the long negotiations between the charity and the hostage takers:

After months of silence, Gift of the Givers had a breakthrough in August, when tribal leaders sent a delegation, acting on behalf of the charity, into the remote badlands. The assembled Qaeda fighters took a vote on reducing the ransom, and half the jihadists voted “yes” while half voted “no,” Mr. Sooliman said. In October, the abductors said that they would accept $700,000. The family, which had already said it could not afford $3 million, still did not have enough money.

In November, the tribal leaders went back to meet with Qaeda members. The car was hit by a drone strike, killing the mediators, according to Mr. Sooliman. “We thought it was over,” he said.

But that tragedy appears to have spurred Al Qaeda to agree to a lower sum, which it promised to use in part to reimburse families of the dead tribal negotiators. On Nov. 26, Mr. Korkie’s abductors sent word they would accept $200,000, to be split with the tribe members.

By Saturday, the money raised by Mrs. Korkie from friends and other donors had been delivered to Yemen. The cars were preparing to leave.

In November a U.S. drone hit tribal mediators who were trying to get Korkie freed. How did the U.S. know about these mediators if not by listening to their communication? In early December the cars are ready to leave to finally free Korkie and the U.S. military hits again at the very same moment.

It is not plausible with all the national and international communication going on between the charity, the parents of the hostage, the mediators and the hostage takers that the U.S. was unaware of all this.

In November it hit the mediators with a drone when they were going to meet the hostage takers. This time it hit the hostages right when the mediators were taking off to meet them. At least ten innocent people were killed with this last raid.

The U.S. has some explaining to do. How did it detect the hostage takers if not by following the mediators communications? Why did it decide to do those two raids on November 25 and December 6 when there was, at least at the first date, no imminent threat to the civilian hostages lives? What was the real purpose and target of these military attacks?

There are still rumors that AQAP nabbed a U.S. "trainer" during a raid on Al Anad airbase in November. Was that captured U.S. soldier the real target of the failed raids? Or what about the Marine Travis Barton AQAP claims to have captured during Saturday's raid?

Posted by b on December 8, 2014 at 13:31 UTC | Permalink


"The U.S. has some explaining to do."

They do, but they won't.

Posted by: IhaveLittleToAdd | Dec 8 2014 14:37 utc | 1

The thing that stands out to me is that the negotiators were killed when attempting to meet the hostage takers in person. It seems like there are a few possibilities:

1. The fact that the negotiators had directly communicated with AQAP was enough to get them killed because nobody bothered to actually translate the conversation. The direct communication met the threshold for a strike to be approved.

2. If you want to be really cynical you could theorize that the U.S. doesn't want anyone to negotiate with them and purposefully tried to sabotage the meeting.

Personally I think it's more likely to be #1, and either the conversation wasn't translated in time or their standard operating procedures in time sensitive intelligence require them to act and potentially be wrong rather than miss an opportunity.

Posted by: WG | Dec 8 2014 16:19 utc | 2

Is it that the "intelligence system" of the U.S. is too complicated to actually accomplish what it was designed to do?

Posted by: Curtis | Dec 8 2014 17:00 utc | 3

It's not the UK getting out of the EU, it's the US getting in

Posted by: Mina | Dec 8 2014 18:30 utc | 4

@ 4: Good read, thanks Mina.

Posted by: ben | Dec 8 2014 19:14 utc | 5

As the world hurtles toward a new Cold War and possibly a nuclear confrontation over Ukraine, the West’s “free press” is again serving the role of an obedient propaganda service — demonizing Russia, presenting a one-sided narrative and feeding a dangerous belligerence

Posted by: John Pilger | Dec 8 2014 20:34 utc | 6

I see a conflict here:
- One group of people really wanted to negotiate the release of the hostages.
- The other group simply wanted to justify their (drone) budget and used the info they received to kill a member of AQAP. When one has a large budget then one has to spend it right ? Otherwise, some policy wonk will reduce that budget the next time the budget us up for renewal.

Posted by: Willy2 | Dec 8 2014 20:37 utc | 7

Th bombing was done by the turkish airforce with nato back up .

Posted by: mcohen | Dec 8 2014 20:41 utc | 8

@4 - Just astonishing. In one move the Brits have put the lie to two of their key national policies: austerity and democracy promotion in the Middle East.

George Galloway ought to have a thing or two to say about this.

Posted by: guest77 | Dec 8 2014 20:53 utc | 9

The so called IS taking of the air base in Deir al Zor

Posted by: Mina | Dec 8 2014 21:05 utc | 11

@7 Willy2

It's odd isn't it. They're so cavalier about using drones. It makes you think they have some system that functions as a quota for "terrorist assets" killed. And they inflate it by attacking anyone tangentially related.

Posted by: Crest | Dec 8 2014 21:28 utc | 12

I believe amerika achieved exactly what it has set out to do right from the minute USuk governments announced that they 'didn't do deals with terrorists" and began pressuring NGO's not to either.
Lets face it without vids showing nice white boys getting their heads sawed off saturating youtube and vimeo, there would have been a lot more opposition to the re-invasion of Iraq and the attacks on Syria. Same same for the Saudi/Yemen thing.

Whitefellas have been engaged in a systematic slaughter of the indigenous people of Yemen since the late 1940's. Ostensibly at first because "they were commies", later because they were islamofacsists but really because of Yemen's geographic position at the entrance to the Suez canal along with its proximity to the hugely unpopular with the locals, good old boys the al-Sauds.

The low key butchery england and amerika have been practising in Yemen has really turned around and bit them on the ass the last 2 - 3 years, to the point where even the urbanised locals are getting behind resistance to the crude and brutal imperialist tactics that USuk have been using.
Killing off the hostages and blaming the locals by conflating them with what is likely their own false flag ISIS hostage killings will mute opposition to stepping up the Yemen slaughter.
The sending of big mobs of Yemeni 'contractors' to Syria weakened the local element in usuk oppression and worse many moved to ISIS after ISIS stopped following amerikan 'suggestions'.
People in MoA will argue that Houthis are Shia and ISIS is sunni but most citizens won't pay attention to the details of more 'boots on the ground' or whatever the current easily skipped over cliche is, as yet another place is found for the imperialist assholes to stick the cannon-fodder chased outta Afghanistan. They'll just see white boys getting their heads sawed off.

Watch and see.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Dec 8 2014 23:11 utc | 13

@ 7 and 12: I understand the US used commandos to carry out the rescue attempt, no drones were used. (Although surveillance drones may have been used to survey the area where AQAP were hiding the hostages.)

The rescue attempt seems to be of a piece with the use of helicopters and SEALs to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and the 2003 "rescue" of Jessica Lynch in an Iraqi hospital: it seems to have been staged as some kind of publicity stunt to demonstrate that the US does not do deals with "terrorists" and to put on a show to impress the public at home.

Posted by: Jen | Dec 8 2014 23:53 utc | 14

It is important for the forked tongues in Washington & London to maintain the fiction that these jihadists or whatever you want to call em this week, delight in killing hostages 'cos they 'hate our freedoms'. The fact that just about anyone who elected to negotiate with the abductors usually got their citizens back quickly, somewhat undermines that meme. So of course the jaapie reporter was on borrowed time the moment the Yemeni resistance (I'm not gonna put labels on these freedom fighters because while their ideology has seemed somewhat opportunist over the decades, their resistance to invasion & colonisation has always remained steadfast.) began freeing him. The jaapie's death wasn't an 'accidental byproduct' of rescuing the other bloke, it was most likely the primary objective of the action.

This slaughter of people and destruction of ancient tribal culture uses the same strategy as the destruction of native american populations and seizure of their assets and resources 150 years ago.

A cycle of broken treaties, provocations, mercenaries and massacre in response to indigenous resistance isn't accidental or a 'screw-up' it has been used by washington prostitutes & crooks in central america, south america, the Caribbean and the Philippines time and time again.
The Bush whores began the process in the ME in 1990 and ever since there has been escalation following the same curve as has been seen from Manila to Mexico, Cuba to Colombia.
I cheer the defeats in Iran, Cuba and Venezuela even though I know these victories are probably only temporary. The locals have to win every war, while the greedy murdering thieves need only win one.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Dec 9 2014 0:28 utc | 15

CIA Director XI, POTUS XLI George H. W. Bush

I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.

Statement as Vice-president, during a presidential campaign function (2 Aug 1988), commenting on the Navy warship USS Vincennes having shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in a commercial air corridor on July 3, killing 290 civilians ...

Obama is just the same 'kind of guy'. Except he's never been chief of the CIA, only an 'Indian' ... Kenyan, Indonesian, Hawaiian, Iowan. Manchurian.

William C. Rogers III

In 1990, Capt. Rogers was awarded the Legion of Merit decoration "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer ... from April 1987 to May 1989." The award was given for his service as the Commanding Officer of the Vincennes, and the citation made no mention of the downing of Iran Air 655.

The American military are decorated for terrorism.

Posted by: john francis lee | Dec 9 2014 1:21 utc | 16

Debs is dead @ 15:

"A cycle of broken treaties, provocations, mercenaries and massacre in response to indigenous resistance isn't accidental or a 'screw-up' it has been used by washington prostitutes & crooks in central america, south america, the Caribbean and the Philippines time and time again.

Absolutely historically factual. (See S. Kinzer's book "Overthrow" Impeccably researched.)

Nice to see you posting again.

Posted by: ben | Dec 9 2014 3:13 utc | 17

@Jen 14

Right, we were talking about the Drone attack on the mediators, not the rescue attempt.

It does make you wonder just how often special forces are deployed around the world. From memoirs with specific information taken out, I'd say "a lot." But i'd like to see the data.

Maybe the omidyar vanity magazine "the Intercept" will release them in 2024.

Posted by: Crest | Dec 9 2014 5:27 utc | 18

off topic but
did u know?
Eric Zuesse: US House Votes 98% to Donate Weapons to Ukraine But US Public 67% Against, Is It Democracy?

so how 'representative' are the representatives? not very when the funders have the influence and voters do not

Posted by: brian | Dec 9 2014 13:32 utc | 19

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